As we all begin to spend more time outside this summer, wildlife education experts are cautioning residents to mind the wildlife and be prepared.
Laurie Grant is the WildSafeBC coordinator for Grand Forks and area. Returning to the job for the second time in three years, Grant is here to help educate residents on proper wildlife precautions.
Grant said for the most part, the issues in Grand Forks are similar to issues across the province. However, a couple things stand out as being unique—the deer problem, for instance.
“There are so many deer in the downtown, it’s an unusual situation,” she said. “They have food, whether it’s naturally or people’s gardens and lawns; if any predators come into town, we’re quick to get rid of them. So it’s a Shangri-La for them.”
Grant also highlighted rattlesnakes, cougars and bears as issues, and urges residents to be properly equipped when out hiking. Easy precautions are to take bear spray with you when you’re out hiking and make sure you’re wearing hiking boots that cover your ankles, she said. Grant stresses than bear spray, when used correctly, is a lot more effective than a gun at keeping you safe.
WildSafe has 28 coordinators in communities across the province. This year, funding for the program is $275,000 from the B.C. Conservation Foundation.
Grant said she will be hosting presentations and seminars throughout the summer, and said she can usually be found at the Farmers’ Market to field questions.
The education process is always ongoing, Grant said, because the city is growing all the time.
“The challenge here is that there a lot of new people in the city, and [they] don’t have an understanding about how to deal with wildlife,” Grant said. “It’s a constant education. You can’t say, ‘oh we dealt with everything three years ago, it’s fine.’ It has to be kept up.”
She said that people come up with all sorts of reasons to feed the deer, but always to remember it’s not in the city’s—or the deer’s—best interest.
“[We’ve seen] people laying out food and making excuses like, it’s good for the tourism, but not thinking about the consequences for the neighbourhood,” Grant said. “In the past, people would be putting out literal buffets of food, garden waste or stuff that would not be appropriate for the deer.”
Grant said an important part of wildlife preparedness is reporting large wildlife when you see them.
“The number one thing to do is keep safe, get indoors,” Grant said. “The second thing is, call the conservation officers to report it. People can also report it on WildSafeBC website.” By identifying it on the WildSafe website (www.wildsafebc ), Grant said residents can get an email alert for future sightings of the animal in their neighbourhood.